Late at night, in bed. Trying to sleep before my early flight in the morning. I look through Facebook and come across a contemporary dance video. I read the lengthy text about this new technique with abstract ideas and poetic phrases, mixed in with a few pseudo-scientific and anatomical words to sound extra intelligent. Then I watch the video and it’s a man on his own, stretching his arms a few times, and casually bending at the torso - quite relaxed.
And so I scroll...
Not even 30 seconds later, I find another video. Another member of this new breed of dance ‘guru’s’, with a female partner this time, working in a studio. Above the video, another lengthy text with the usual ‘evolutionary, anthropologically and oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-they’re-falling-for-this’ text. I watch the video, and it’s simply a guy and a girl improvising some basic shit. And I mean...basic...shit.
And so I scroll...
I am fully aware that a part of dance is expressing oneself and moving in your own way. So maybe I’m just not a fan of their chosen style. However, these people are not moving in their own way. They’re moving in the most fashionable manner as of Autumn 2017. They’ve taken workshops of Fighting Monkey, or Ido Portal and now they’re selling the dance world an unoriginal product. And I purposefully use the word ‘selling’. Their workshops are some of the most expensive around, and they have plenty! Why is there this big trend to now stop working on, what I can only think to call, ‘macro’ movement and focus entirely on ‘micro’ movement?
By ‘macro’, I mean large, dynamic and difficult to execute movements. Movements that you can’t do the first time you try them. Movements that you have to train for a number of days/weeks to even execute. Maybe it’s my Bboying background which influences me? The ultimate goal of the Bboy/Bgirl is to be creative and original, to have your own ‘style’ and ‘flavour’ (I refuse to write ‘flava’). A constant search at looking for what is new. Sound familiar? Could that not almost be used to describe the idea of contemporary dance?
And by ‘micro’ I mean an unbalanced focus on esoteric thoughts and concepts with very minimal movement. A movement loaded with so much conceptual ‘conceptual-ness’, that the actual movement is almost pedestrian, where if someone performed the same action, but unaware of the whole complex notions behind it, they would achieve the same result.
I fully understand that there is value in working in ‘small things’. Dance nowadays is so varied and broad that there isn’t, and shouldn’t be, just large acrobatic and meaningless movement. BUT, that doesn’t mean we have to swing the scales the entire opposite direction and NEVER work on virtuous and difficult movement. Why is the concept more important than the movement itself? Why are we searching mentally yet, we’ve halted at the true physical research? It seems, to be fashionable now, we must wave our arms around, occasionally straightening them, shaking our head side to side as we do and then drop to our belly and rising again with our hands guiding us in the most ‘flying-low’ way possible. How many ‘improv’ videos have you seen recently that this applies to?
I’m not suggesting that I wish to see more acrobatic movements or movements of ‘my style’. I’m simply tired of not seeing original dance. I’m tired of seeing young dancers train with these ‘guru’s’ and then watch them in performance and cringe at their stiffness and lack of creativity. I’m tired of hearing nasty stories of (some of) these male guru’s where they use female assistants during their workshops and treat them with no respect, or belittle participants who ask questions or simply act rudely to keep up their façade of being ‘so fucking wise’!
I’m tired of contemporary dance in general. It needs a shake-up. So maybe, just maybe, I’m going to start an informed research project looking into these new techniques and test to see how effective they really are. Testing participants before and after workshops. Creating factual data about whether or not these techniques and methods actually live up to their grandiose promises, or if actually these motherfuckers are just selling us an invisible product.
Be careful guru’s....I’m coming for ya!